April 20, 2010 is a day that changed the lives of many of the residents of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida. April 20, 2010 is the date of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. According to the LA Times, this rig explosion, which caused the death of 11 rig workers and gushed more than 155 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf Coast, was the worst oil spill in United States history. This explosion not only lead to the wrongful death of several rig workers, but, as reported by the Associated Press, it also caused severe economic damage to every individual and entity effected, not to mention the negative environmental impact on all the states effected. Three months, and 200 million gallons of oil later, the oil well was capped, but the devastation that it caused will be felt for years to come.
It is this devastation that is the crux of the lawsuit, which involves over 120,000 claimants or plaintiffs, that has been filed against BP (otherwise know as British Petroleum), which leased the rig that exploded, Transocean, the owner of the rig, Halliburton, the company responsible for the casing cement; and other companies involved in the rig's operations. The main claim against these defendants is that they were negligent or grossly negligent, which lead to teh occurnace of the oil spill. The claimants in this case include those who chose not to take final claims payments through the $20 billion dollar compensation fund set up by BP. Many of the claimants that chose to apply for payouts rather than risk a drawn out legal battle include condominium owners, oyster fishermen, hoteliers and beach towns, among others. These claimants chose likely chose this route because of the early concerns that the lawyers for BP and the other defendant companies would drag out litigation for years. Despite these early concerns, it seems as if legal action for the spill is speeding through courts at an unprecedented pace.
According to USA Today, unlike the proceedings related to the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska in 1989, the proceedings associated with this tragic oil spill are moving through the courts relatively quickly. United States District Judge Carl Barbier, the New Orleans federal judge overseeing the case, has set February 27, 2012 as the date of trial for the first issue relating to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The purpose of this February trial will be to assign shares of fault to the defendant companies involved and determine whether Transocean can limit what it pays those making claims under maritime law. According to the Associated Press, the ruling could impact the lawsuits that the defendant companies have filed against each other. For example, in one of those lawsuits, BP has sued Transocean for at least $40 billion in damages, accusing it of causing the deadly explosion.
Just recently, Judge Barbier ruled that BP is not entitled to coverage for the oil spill under insurance policies held by Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that BP was leasing at the time of last year's Gulf of Mexico disaster. The policies totaled $750 million dollars. In his opinion, Judge Barbier wrote: "Because Transocean did not assume the oil pollution risks pertaining to the Deepwater Horizon incident -- BP did -- Transocean was not required to name BP as an additional insured as to those risks. Because there is no insurance obligation as to those risks, BP is not an 'insured' ... for those risks. Therefore, BP is not entitled to the declarations of coverage it seeks." In addition to ruling that BP is not entitled to coverage under Transoceans insurance policies, Judge Barbier also ruled that Alabama and Louisiana could pursue punitive damages against BP and other companies.
Continue reading "Trial Date for Issues Related to BP Oil Spill set for February 27, 2012" »